Time to say ‘the king is naked’ in tourism

Time to say ‘the king is naked’ in tourism

Nobody doubts that the two bomb attacks which occurred two months apart in Istanbul were targeting tourists. In the first one, German tourists and in the second one Israeli and Iranian tourists lost their lives. The tourism sector, experiencing the deepest crisis in its history, is receiving blow after blow. 

I asked Fehmi Köfteoğlu, who participated in the biggest fair in the tourism sector, the Berlin ITB Fair, how the atmosphere there was.

According to Köfteoğlu, who manages turizmgazetesi.com as well as other publications in the tourism sector, participation from Turkey was quite high. The number of visitors coming from Turkey was high and the number of stands from Turkey was aplenty; however, impressions from the fair revealed that this intense interest bred no results. 

“Those who bought package tours for Turkey from the second largest group in the European travel industry, Thomas Cook, canceled their reservations to Turkey after the latest incidents and even though it was 25 percent to 79 percent more expensive, changed their route to Spain. Due to these developments, Thomas Cook’s management has decreased the capacity it allocated for Turkey 29 percent,” Köfteoğlu said.

The same goes for TUI, the world’s biggest tour operator. TUI’s Turkey sales have gone down 40 percent. Köfteoğlu said, “As a result, our sector, which arrived at ITB Berlin with major hopes and expectations, has returned without hope.”

He added, “We have seen this once again at the fair: Turkey’s problem in tourism in 2016 is not prices, it is security. Tourism concerns 54 sectors; it is time that someone should step up and say, ‘The king is naked.’”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently revealed the Tourism Emergency Measure Package. According to the package, with support from the government, it would be possible to pull down the prices in the sector… but tourists from Russia or the U.K. are concerned with security rather than prices.

With the performance each actor in the sector displayed for years, Turkish tourism had reached a stage where it was able to compete internationally at the top level; it is really sad that the sector is in this situation now. 

Last year, 4.5 million tourists came from Russia, but this year, because of the downed plane crisis, not even 1 million tourists will come. The losses in the tourism sector will reach $12 billion. 

In such a picture, crying out loud that the king is naked means giving the government the message:

“Change, as soon as possible, your policies that cause Turkey to be referred to as a country of terror.”

Obviously, at this stage, unless there is a meaningful change introduced in foreign policy, the tourism sector will be unable to return to its bright days, no matter which emergency measure package is opened. 

Will Turkey sacrifice such an important sector as this one, which recorded $31.5 billion in 2015 with an 8 percent drop compared to the previous year? 

On the other hand, in the new budget, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has been allocated some 2.3 billion Turkish liras. Just for an example, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has 6.4 billion liras allocated.

Nobody should expect the Culture and Tourism Ministry, with this limited budget, to support the dying tourism sector on one hand and support culture on the other.